A national view of challenges facing cities

I’m attending a meeting with colleagues from around the U.S. in Burlington, VT this week. (BTW-  great town)

Burlington, VTThe senior staff of the National League of Cities (NLC) kicked off the event by identifying key challenges that city leaders are dealing with across the country. It is an interesting and important list that I share with you below in my own words, not theirs.

1.      State and federal preemption of policy decisions historically made at the local level.  Legislators in state capitals and Washington are striking down locally crafted laws on subjects like broadband deployment, civil rights ordinances, planning & zoning, and other city policies in favor of a one-size-fits-all model.

Federalist arguments aside, (too nerdy for a 200 word blog, I’m afraid) what happened to the argument that “the government closest to the people is best equipped to make decisions that reflect local values?” The answer is that many special interests have decided that it is easier to bypass local decision makers and have state and federal legislators make sweeping decisions that affect everyone the same. It makes maintaining an authentic community more difficult.

2.    The Opioid Epidemic- “America’s 911 on a weekly basis” The proliferation of opiods is a huge problem. Once thought to be a rural matter, the epidemic has reached communities of all shapes and sizes. In some cases, entire communities are being ripped apart as a result.

3.    Disproportionate job growth in America- Central cities are coming back, suburban poverty is on the rise, exurbs all falling prey to long commutes and changing demographics, and rural America is struggling. So basically much of what we built in the last 50 years (roads, schools, etc) is reaching functional obsolescence and we need to address it soon.

4.    Partisanship and political divide at the state and federal levels. I’m not sure I need to cover this one- it is right in front of us everyday.

Those are their issues. A good list. I’m sure they have more.